Former police officers develop safer, simpler restraint device for unruly airline passengers
Tony Morgan and Richard Strickland are former London Metropolitan Police officers who have launched a new passenger restraint system for use on board aeroplanes.
Following retirement from the Met, Morgan and Strickland set up Total Resolve Training – a conflict management and physical intervention training company. Their latest invention, the Quik-Restraint System, combines the two careers. The device comes at a time when aeroplane incidents are on the rise, with new media reports appearing every week.
Air rage risk up
New data released this week by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) finds that issues with disorderly passengers continue to be a problem for cabin crew. Overall, an incident was reported every 1,434 flights in 2016. While the total number of reported incidents last year actually fell by almost 10 percent to 9,837, the proportion that were deemed a higher risk increased from 2015.
The number of passengers needing to be physically restrained on flights in 2016 rose 50% on the previous year, to 169. Their behaviour ranged from verbal and physical abuse to life-threatening actions, including attempts to enter the cockpit.
Airlines around the world have used various methods to restrain passengers – some more eyebrow-raising than others – from sitting on the offending passenger, to duct taping them into the seat or even tasering them. These approaches pose safety risks, not to mention the PR backlash. Further, industry officials estimate the cost of diverting a long-haul flight to remove an unruly passenger at $200,000 (approx. £148,000).
Wherever possible, crew need to be able to defuse the situation so that the flight can continue safely to its destination. Being able to quickly deploy a passenger restraint system when required is a key aspect of this.
Right place, right time
BA CityFlyer was an existing training client of Total Resolve and had told Morgan and Strickland about some of the issues British Airways crew at Heathrow had encountered when deploying their existing restraint devices.
Morgan explains: “The device they [were using had] six straps along with rigid handcuffs. Cabin crew reported that once the handcuffs were applied the straps were fiddly to work with and it took a lot of time to apply the kit.”
“We heard this feedback on numerous occasions,” he added, “And that set us on our path.”
Although neither Morgan nor Strickland had been directly involved with restraint devices except police handcuffs before, they researched, developed and manufactured a simple and easy to use device with the aim of negating the issues BA had raised.
Total Resolve’s Quik-Restraint System was entered into a tender process at BA and successfully saw off the competition. The company has now trained BA's lead trainers in the use of the device and it is being cascaded to their cabin crews.
“They were impressed by its ease of use and medical soundness. It has also been medically assessed and endorsed by an eminent medical physician,” Morgan comments.
From police officer to product designer
The product design and manufacturing was a “real learning curve for us,” Morgan says, noting,
“Most of my time was probably spent going to my local tailors, looking at them stitching bits and pieces together until we got what we thought was a viable prototype.”
Although the pair were not experienced in sourcing materials and suppliers etc., their experience in the police force did provide vital input during this process and helped them to find a USP for their product as well.
Morgan explains: “Most, if not all, of the devices that are being used at the moment go around the person's chest. Through our experience in the police, we knew of the issues regarding putting anything around people's chests. Certainly for passengers who are either drunk, on drugs or delirious etc., we know that people have died through positional asphyxiation through having restraints put on them. We decided, at an early stage that any restraining we did must rule out putting anything across the chest.”
This is relevant as IATA found that about a third of all incidents were related to intoxication, and many of these cases escalated physically.
How it works
Total Resolve’s Quik-Restraint device combines just two different coloured webbing straps for speed and simplicity – a belt strap and an arms restraint strap. The restraining straps do not go around the individual’s chest or fully encircle the arms. The belt strap is simply applied over the back of the seat and secured in place. The arms straps are then applied to safely restrain and control the person in position. Both straps are secured behind the seat. The system works in conjunction with any form of wrist restraint, such as the rigid handcuff, which is currently used by BA.
The company has already picked up some healthcare clients for the device who are interested in using it for the safe restraint of aggressive or violent patients. Following Total Resolve’s deal to supply 470 Quik Restraint sets for the BA fleet, along with full training on using the kit, the company is looking to expand to other airlines too.
Morgan said: “We're only a small company but we have identified something, developed and manufactured it ourselves, designed it, patented it etc. and we are going out there with the belief that it's a good bit of kit."
"It’s still a journey for us but we believe we will win the battles.”